Polarization of PPD-specific T-cell response of patients with tuberculosis from Th0 to Th1 profile after successful antimycobacterial therapy or in vitro conditioning with interferon-alpha or interleukin-12

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2001 Feb;24(2):187-94. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.24.2.4274.


The T helper (Th) 1/Th2 balance in the T-lymphocyte response to purified protein derivative (PPD) was evaluated at the clonal level in six Italian and five Gambian patients with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) before and after antimycobacterial therapy, as well as in five Gambian and four Italian healthy immune control subjects. In untreated patients, most PPD-specific clones derived from either peripheral blood or pleural effusions showed a Th0 cytokine profile (production of both interferon [IFN]-gamma and interleukin [IL]-4/IL-5). After 6 mo of therapy and clinical healing, most PPD-specific clones showed a polarized Th1 profile (production of IFN-gamma but not IL-4/IL-5) in both Italian and Gambian patients. The Th1 polarization was less marked in Gambian than in Italian patients and failed to occur in another group of four Italian patients who experienced treatment failure. The cytokine profile observed after successful therapy in patients with TB was similar to that found in healthy control subjects. T-cell clones of undefined specificity generated from PPD-stimulated cultures showed a similar Th0/Th2 bias in Gambian individuals and Italian patients with treatment failure. The Th0/Th2-biased responses in Gambian patients before therapy could be modulated in vitro by IFN-alpha or IL-12, which induced a Th1 polarization of both PPD-specific and bystander T cells. Our data show that active TB associates with a predominant Th0 response to mycobacterial antigens that could play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease. Adjunctive immunotherapy using Th1-polarizing cytokines could increase host defense against mycobacteria and accelerate healing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interferon Type I / pharmacology*
  • Interleukin-12 / pharmacology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Tuberculin / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology*


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Interferon Type I
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tuberculin
  • Interleukin-12